Veterinary Career

What is a Veterinary Neurosurgeon?

There are a few Veterinary Neurologists that only treat conditions requiring medical management, but the vast majority of us now also perform neurosurgery.  In veterinary medicine, there is no such thing as a 'Board-Certified Veterinary Neurosurgeon'.  Which is why some primary care veterinarians and some Veterinary Surgeons perform limited neurosurgical procedures.  

My residency at UC Davis was in Neurology and Neurosurgery and I was part of the charter group to gain the Advanced Training in Veterinary Neurosurgery Certificate.  I am also a member of the Veterinary Neurosurgical Society.  And, most recently, I attended a certification course to be one of a small group of veterinarians, world-wide, that are able to provide disc-replacement surgery for dogs.

So, as you can see, I have a very strong interest in neurosurgery!  I've done all that I can to make sure that LOVN is able to offer the very best cutting-edge neurosurgical techniques.  I've also got the experience and the amazing staff to be able to offer the very best in neurosurgical outcomes.

In fact, we've recently acquired a new device that will enhance our neurosurgical capabilities even farther!  It's called a Cavitronic Ultrasonic Surgical Aspirator (CUSA) and it's awesome!  That's going to be a blog post all on it's own!

What is a Veterinary Neurologist?

Veterinary Neurology is currently considered a subspecialty in veterinary medicine under the umbrella of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM).  The ACVIM was founded in 1973 and the subspecialty of Veterinary Neurology was created in 1974.  There were four neurologists that were charter members of the group: Dr. De Lahunta, Dr. Holliday, Dr. Kay, and Dr. Oliver.  It was my distinct pleasure to have had the honor of learning from Dr. Terry Holliday himself while I attended my residency at UC Davis.  He was a true pioneer and a brilliant man.

Veterinary Neurologists are trained to diagnose and treat diseases of the brain and spinal cord (the Central Nervous System or CNS) as well as diseases of the peripheral nerves and muscles (the Peripheral Nervous System or PNS) in all veterinary species.  The lesser-known but vitally important Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) also falls under our purview.  

To make these diagnoses we use tools such as the MRI scanner, CT scanner, and electrophysiologic testing.  We also make use of very specialized blood and tissue tests (spinal fluid, muscle and nerve biopsies, etc.) and genetic tests for specific diseases.  But the most powerful tool at our disposal, is our ability to observe and recognize abnormalities in movement and behavior.  I learned that lesson from another mentor and pioneer in veterinary neurology, Dr. Rick LeCouteur.

To treat these conditions, the Veterinary Neurologist may be called upon to apply either medical or surgical techniques.  But often, successful therapy requires a little of both.  Our most important tools, though, are the unparallelled nursing and support staff we are surrounded by; including our Veterinary Technicians, Veterinary Technician Assistants, and Client Experience Officers!

What is a Veterinary Specialist?

Many people aren't aware of the advanced training that is required to be considered a veterinary specialist.  Just like your primary care physician might refer you to a specialist for additional testing, surgery, or treatment; your primary care veterinarian might recommend that you take your pet to a specialist for these things.  Veterinarians specialize in many different fields including neurology, orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, cancer treatment (oncology), dermatology, ophthalmology, nutrition, dentistry, etc.  

To become a veterinarian, a person typically completes a four-year Bachelor's Degree followed by a four-year Doctorate Program and then must pass a national board exam.  To practice veterinary medicine in a particular state, a veterinarian often has to pass a state board exam as well.

But for those individuals that feel a strong interest and passion for a specific area of veterinary medicine, there are additional challenges to face before you can be called a 'Specialist' and be considered an expert in your field.  Typically, these people complete a one-year internship following their doctorate program to be followed by three years in a residency.  

These internships and residencies are very stringently monitored for the quality of teaching and the expertise of the individuals involved.  The oversight committees for these programs are controlled by the individual 'colleges' that certify specialists in their particular fields of expertise.  For instance, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine certifies specialists in internal medicine, oncology, cardiology, and neurology.  To become a specialist in these fields, you have to complete a qualifying residency and then pass two rigorous board exams.  Then, to maintain licensure and competency, Veterinary Specialists have to meet requirements for continuing education, teaching, research, and publications too.

A lot of work goes into becoming a Veterinary Specialist and in making sure that Veterinary Specialists meet very high requirements.  For more information, check out the links below:

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

AVMA - Veterinary Specialists

Vet Specialists.Com